“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal

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This. There was a time when I was so happy to be able to connect to the Internet with my mobile phone by dialing-in into the ISP. I remember on a trip to Tel Aviv, Israel in 2000, a colleague SMSed me from Singapore (remember SMS?), that there was a problem with name resolution of the service we were providing. He had updated something in the table and after that, the DNS was not resolving and could not figure out why. I was the CTO of that organization and it was cool to be able to fix operational technical issues.

I was in a cab on my way to a meeting when the SMS came in. I plugged in the Nokia proprietary data cable for my Nokia phone – 6210. The cable had a 9-pin RS-232 serial port which went into my laptop. With that setup, I then fired up minicom (the laptop was running Red Hat Linux 6.1 I think), dialed in the local ISP in Israel (as part of the “roaming” for ISP dialups), ssh‘ed into the server, checked the DNS named files, found the issue (a missing trailing “.” after a domain name), restarted named and viola, all’s well. What a thrill that was. Thousands of kilometers away, but still able to fix an issue remotely, via the mobile phone connection on a laptop, in a cab.

I was pretty pleased to have been able to make something happen successfully. I felt like a hero.

Why am I relating this story?

I do wonder how I would have managed this technical issue if I did not have Internet access the way I had then. Today, being on the Internet is the default. 24/7 is the norm. When are you not connected?

I have come across Blaise Pascal’s quote many times before, but today it made particular sense to me. As I have noted in a previous blog post – A Simple Life Hack – I turn off my mobile data on my phone when I am moving around – in a bus, car etc. I turn it on only when I need to. I have setup the wireless on the phone to connect automatically to Wireless@SGx, so when I am the MRT stations, I get connected to the net.

This disconnectedness is really wonderful. Some people go for “digital detox“. That’s not what I am suggesting. I am suggesting a deliberate and thoughful disconnection from the online world for shor durations of time. Eventually, by doing this, I’ve found that I am really not missing the constant barrage of chatter and information. I am (re)discovering the world around me.

I am able to revisit my own thoughts, roam around the place I am at, and be able to be in the moment, being mindful. I truly like that.

I like it because it is now a deliberate action on my part and I see and observe things around me that I would have missed. Lots of things are happening around you. If you choose to observe, see, listen, smell, you’ll learn some. You’ll probably smile. Not everything happens online – to state a truism.

If you do not get to sit quietly in a room and contemplate – heck, even navel gaze – I think Pascal’s observation will be spot on.

What happened today? Well, I have been trying to figure out how to use a regular scanner to scan photo negatives. negative-scanning-mediumIt was in the 30 minute bus ride home, disconnected from the Internet, that I came up with the solution.  I will write that up and post once I’ve built it.

If you are reading this on my mobile phone (thanks btw), go turn off your mobile data, put the phone back in your pocket, look around, be mindful and live in the moment.


  1. Hi Harish. Do you manually turn off your mobile data when you’re on the move or do you use a script on your mobile phone to do it?

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